Southampton – Spotting

Southampton Airport (SOU) is located to the north of the city of Southampton in the town of Eastleigh. With the site’s aviation history starting in 1910, there has been over a century of flying from what is now the largest airport serving the central south coast. The airport handled just under 2 million customers in 2017/18 and in 2019 was ranked third out of 30 UK airports for customer satisfaction by Which?

One of Flybe’s Dash 8s about to land at Southampton

If you’re heading to the airport there are frequent bus services into Southampton itself and Southampton Airport Parkway is a 2-minute walk from the terminal. South Western Railway provide frequent services to both Southampton and London with connections to the rest of the UK at various points on the route. If you’re driving, then I’d recommend parking at Eastleigh station or elsewhere nearby and getting public transport to the airport itself as parking is the usual high airport prices.

At the time of my visit, the summer months were better as only Flybe and Aurginy operated from the airport year-round. Unfortunately, the former has entered administration since my visit and with it most of Southampton’s routes have ceased. Furthermore, the Coronavirus situation has paused most other flights across the UK so the below may not be accurate once flight recommence. EasyJet, TUI and Spanish airline Volotea have seasonal flights from Southampton, the former operating ski flights to Geneva and the latter two connecting the airport to summer sun destinations.

Blue Islands’ ATRs were in a fairly plain colour scheme

To add some variety, Blue Island and Eastern Airways both operate some flights on behalf of Flybe, with the former’s aircraft in a rather plain colour scheme whilst the latter’s BAe Jetstream’s operate in their own blue and white colour scheme. Most of the aircraft operating into the airport are Flybe’s Bombardier Dash 8’s with the odd Embraer E-jet being mixed in for the more popular destinations. Blue Island and Aurigny both operate ATRs into Southampton with the latter also using it’s Dornier 228s on flights to Alderney.

Having parked for the day at Eastleigh, the first two spotting areas I tried were both within walking distance of the terminal and train station. The first, the mound just beyond the business aviation terminal provided some height and would have been great for shots with a proper camera, however due to the distance wasn’t great for just mobile phone photos. Also, due to the positioning of part of the long-stay car park and the airfield perimeter and nearby general aviation apron, there was a lot of ‘clutter’ including lampposts between me and the aircraft I was attempting to photograph from this location.

Southampton’s short-stay car park provided great views of the apron

I much preferred the second spot I tried; however I can imagine this has the opposite issue in terms of proper camera versus mobile phone. The airport’s short-stay car park is adjacent to the terminal and part of the main apron and also provides sufficient height to get some great apron and taxi shots. There is a mesh fence around the outside of the car park, however if your lens is small enough then it is possible to get some excellent head on shots of aircraft on stands 8-11.

The final spot I tried was on the second day of my trip to Hampshire and is a bit further from the terminal but accessible by shuttle bus. The Long-Stay Car Park is also free for up to 30 minutes and is right under the final approach to runway 20. Due to the proximity to the approaching aircraft, mobile phone photos turn out okay here and for proper cameras you’re likely to want a short lens.

Aurigny’s G-OAUR on final approach as seen from Southampton’s long-stay car park

Southampton is a good little airport for spotting at if you’re already in the vicinity or passing by, however due to its relatively quiet schedule of mostly Flybe aircraft, I wouldn’t recommend making a special trip. For me the highlight was seeing and photographing Aurigny’s Dornier 228s as these were a first for me, however the vast majority of the traffic was no different to that at any other regional airport.

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